I is for Instalove - not exactly realistic

Author: Anne

Date Published: Dec 23rd 2017, 1:57pm

I first published this blog two years ago - I stand by it !


Many books tell their story over a defined time period. It may be a long one (a lifetime or over several generations – although this may be spread over a number of volumes) or a short one (think of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf who both have written books set only on one day). Romance novels often set their stories over a summer or a Christmas period or one year, and crime and mystery novels over the period of an investigation.

If you are writing a book set over a short period and want your main characters to fall in love you have a bit of a problem because things don’t always work that quickly in real life especially when dealing with the emotions. To cope with that writers have created something which I call InstaLove (trademark pending).

InstaLove describes that moment when two characters in a book see each other, find one another very attractive (this doesn’t work with ordinary looking people although it often includes people who think they are unattractive but aren’t), and fall in love. Note, they don’t just have an instant physical attraction, although that is involved, but they have an immediate, deep connection.

Signs of InstaLove include stuttering, inability to think clearly and a complete emotional investment in someone they have just met. There might be an initial period of hating each other but this is only for show and really the couple are in love. Events move quickly onwards until by the end of the book, a period which may only be weeks, a lifetime together is assured. In romantic suspense, a sub-genre for which I have a weakness, the declarations of eternal commitment come at the resolution of the suspense element of the book.

Books which include InstaLove also usually include an early kiss which sets bodies on fire (not literally, obviously), a falling out, traumas in early life which preclude either or both making a long-term commitment (at least in their own minds), misunderstandings, a few sex scenes of various levels of explicitness depending on the style of the book (this will even happen when the couple are fleeing a serial killer), and a dramatic make up scene, often including a proposal of marriage.

If you read romance novels you will have come across InstaLove in various forms. It is so useful for the writer to progress the story without a long period when the characters are getting to know one another and it means that if sex scenes are a part of the book they can happen sooner rather than later.

The problem for me, however, is that InstaLove is completely unbelievable and it makes it difficult for me to think of the characters as real people. I find that I lose all respect for them when they succumb to InstaLove. I want to tell them to get to know each other first and not to confuse lust and love. It annoys me when people fall in love instantly and seem to lose their minds and act in a really stupid way.

Some writers overcome the need for InstaLove by having characters who knew each other in the past and come back together again by chance – these often irritate me too because people who allege that they have been very badly hurt by the other forgive very quickly and start to behave in the same way as InstaLove victims.

I really need to avoid these books, although it is not usually clear from the synopsis that InstaLove is a factor. I want to read books where love grows from familiarity and friendship or at least where people who admire each other’s bodies don’t fall immediately into bed with one another and declare undying love after a very short period of connection.

I suppose that I can be reassured by one thing though. Unlike in real life where quick connections are fraught with problems, all our love partners seem to live happily every after. Maybe there is something to be said for InstaLove …..